The slow loris, an impossibly cute nocturnal primate found in the rainforests of South East Asia, is thought to be at risk from the international pet trade.
With its huge round eyes and soft woolly coat, this little primate is highly sought after by exotic pet keepers. Traders go to extreme lengths to sell the lorises, often pulling out their teeth with pliers so that they can be sold as “tame”. The animals suffer high mortality in captivity due to infection, poor handling and animal cruelty.
The Cambodian government has called for all species of slow loris to be listed on Appendix I of CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species), which would effectively ban all international trade in the animals. Although widely supported by animal welfare groups, this proposal is contested by international groups such as TRAFFIC (the joint wildlife trade monitoring programme of WWF and the World Conservation Union).
Such groups state that domestic trade is a far bigger threat to the animals and that local law enforcement would have more of an impact than an international ban on trade. Despite being protected by law in all range states, the animals are sold openly on the streets and at bird markets.
Lorises are traded locally for the pet trade and are also used in traditional medicine. All parts of the loris are used from the eyes (to make love potions) to the fur (for healing wounds) and flesh (to treat epilepsy, stomach problems and asthma). TRAFFIC representatives argue that local level trade would not be affected by the Appendix I listing.
However, proponents of the ban argue that Appendix I listing will raise awareness of the problems facing this little-known primate amongst the public and enforcement agencies, and hopefully lead to better protection.
The proposal, which includes all species in the genus Nycticebus, is being debated at the 14th Conference of the Parties of CITES, which is currently being held in the Netherlands. Find out more here.
Previously regarded as a single species, there are now thought to be at least 5 species of slow loris, occurring from northern India, down through Myanmar, Thailand and peninsular Malaysia, across into Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos and into the islands of Indonesia and the Philippines. Little is known about the status of these shy nocturnal primates, although populations are thought to be declining as a result of habitat loss and unsustainable levels of poaching and trafficking.